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My Story

I'm a 33-year-old man who has a 1-year-old daughter and a loving partner whom I have been with for 3 years. My other half and I have been through everything you could imagine over the past few years. From expecting our first child to a few days later finding out I had stage IV bowel cancer. It has been a tangled mess of emotions, with every step unknown. My partner has been my biggest inspiration in all of this and has always kept it real and normal for me even when things seem totally out of control. She remains positive, loving and is dealing with this cancer as much as I am.  My daughter has just turned one and watching her grow up, walk, talk, play and giggle is the best medicine I can get. She is my absolute sunshine all the time and if there is anything cancer has given me its time with her.

Me&O

"a tangled mess of emotions.

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I have worked mainly on cars since I left school carrying out an apprenticeship to become a car mechanic. Later on, I completed training to become a master vehicle technician and then back to college to gain equivalent A levels in Maths, physics and computer programming. I went on to complete a foundation engineering degree at Southampton University. My work life has been varied and going back into education was not an easy thing to do. In regards to facing this cancer, It hasn’t given me much back up. Doing a physical job is hard when going through treatment. I was also a very silly man and did not have any critical illness cover or life insurance in place before my diagnosis. Financially cancer has hurt, being out of work and raising a young family has been hard on everyone.

31st Nov 2018, the day my life shifted, a day where everything you know gets turned upside down and torn up. It was the day that I got diagnosed with bowel cancer at 31 years old! The poo had hit the fan, so to speak!!

Leading up to this, The symptoms were not very clear I had no pain, tiredness or change in bowel habits. I first noticed a small amount of blood in my stool around March 2018. This stopped after a couple of weeks but then later that year in September I noticed more blood in my stool. It was heavier, darker and appearing every time I went to the toilet. I went to my GP thinking I probably had a case of bad piles or a cut on my bum. My GP examined me for piles and couldn’t find a problem. He then asked about my family history with cancer. I informed him that my Grandad was diagnosed with bowel cancer over 10 years ago. A concerning look swept over him and he gazed over some notes on his computer screen. I remember him swivelling on his chair and slapping his hands on his legs as a point of action. The Dr then informed me that because of my age, he was fairly convinced it would be nothing too serious. However, because of my family history, he wanted to refer me for a colonoscopy just to be sure there was nothing more to it.

Alarm bells started ringing in my head as I had done a bit of my own google diagnosis before having the appointment. The worst-case scenario was cancer!? but no way in a million years I thought. I'm a fairly healthy fit 31-year-old, the odds I would have anything were just not even conceivable. How wrong I was!!

Inbetween my GP appointment and colonoscopy I had the amazing news that Carlie was pregnant with our beautiful daughter Olivia who is now 1. At that moment everything was perfect. I had no idea about any cancer, all I knew was we had an amazing future to plan-welcoming a new life into the world. The stars had aligned! my life was finally on track. In that small window of time in 2018 ( approx 3 days ) I was probably the happiest most contented I had ever been. 31st of November, cue the colonoscopy and you can imagine the dream shattering, life reversing news that came my way.

The colonoscopy confirmed that I had a malignant tumour in my butt, Bowel Cancer!!. How? Why? What Now? Will I Live? These are all questions that I faced at that moment. From that moment I have stepped into the shadow of cancer and every part of me is now seeking to step out and live my life again.

Two weeks later I had an appointment with a colorectal surgeon and was informed that my cancer had spread!! its not just a simple bowel tumour, it's in my bloody liver as well!! and that I have three or four areas of cancer in my liver. After an MRI scan on my liver and a PET CT, I was referred to the Oncology department. I was told that I had bilateral multiple liver metastases. This means that the liver focused MRI and PET scan had picked up that cancer had spread right across my liver in several locations and was inoperable. Ok, so this was getting out of hand now! just like that with no feeling of illness, I was a stage 4 inoperable cancer patient?? I just wanted to wake up! Someone, please wake me up! I must just be having a nightmare, this can't be real?

"everything you know gets turned upside down and torn up.

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"I have stepped into the shadow of cancer and every part of me is now seeking to step out​.

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"Cancer has stripped my independence away but I'm not going to let it take everything from me!!​.

"Just like that with no feeling of illness, I was a stage 4 inoperable cancer patient??​

This was just the start of the journey, I had no idea how this was going to unfold and still 2 years on I don’t. I'm currently on my 3rd series of Chemotherapy, I have three major surgeries two on my liver and one to remove a part of my lower bowel and fit a stoma bag where the primary cancer was. I Have gone through radiotherapy and tons of scans and blood tests.

I am fortunate enough to have had some amazing responses to the treatment but I have also had some very harrowing and frustrating setbacks. At this moment in time, we have not seen any evidence of primary cancer that was first found in my bowel.

I'm now left with liver metastasis and lung metastasis. I always think that word metastasis is appropriately awkward to say. The Docs use Mets for short, it means that cancer had spread to other tissue or organs.  So yeah basically cancer that started in my butt has got its mates together and gone uptown for a night out on the lung bus first round being served in the liver. However, I have only a few very small nodules on my lung which we expect to reduce or disappear with the chemotherapy.

Recent scans have shown that my liver is now back in an inoperable state even though I have had two lots of surgery and chemotherapy. The truth is that as soon as I stop treatment bad things happen! Covid-19 has a lot to answer for. My treatment was paused while the country was in the first lockdown. I was due to have more chemo 8/12 weeks after my last liver surgery happened in march but I only received it in September. This allowed the cancer time to grow and unfortunately, I now have 4 areas of concern on my liver, one of which can not be surgically removed. It's like walking through thick mud up to your chest, you don’t know if you're going to sink or swim.  

I will be updating my blog with the next stages of my journey but for now, It is time to suck up that setback and bring out the big guns!!  My Oncology team are working closely with Mr Rees my liver specialist at Basingstoke and set to go forward with standard Chemotherapy/Immunotherapy, Mr Rees is lining up a treatment Called T.A.C.E. In basic terms, this is chemotherapy drugs injected into my liver to directly target the tumours. Double Chemo!! I'm apprehensive about this as I know my body is going to get its arse kicked with what is essentially poison running through it. This is by no means the last chance effort but we are going full attack to hit this stuff hard. All I can do now is look after myself keep fit and focus on my mental wellbeing and getting through this next stage in my journey with cancer. Every day I wake up I fight, there is always that feeling of impending doom, that time is running out. Cancer has been a very hard pill to swallow, all I want to do is live a normal life in my early 30’s. start a family, create a family home, go on holidays, just go to work like I used to, go out for a beer on a Friday night. Cancer has stripped my independence away but I'm not going to let it take everything from me!!

Along the way, I hope that I can help others going through tough times in their lives. I would like to think that sharing my journey may show other young people with cancer how I'm living, coping, fighting this unjust, unfair, unimaginable infliction.

"Every day I wake up I fight.

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I want to say thank you to my Mum, Dad, Brothers, and close family for there support and all my mates. even if it is just as a sounding board helping me mentally get through this. I want to say a special thank you to Carlie's Mum and Dad, Paul and Jane. They put up with me every day, which I can assure you is enough to drive anyone nuts. They are both amazing grandparents to Olivia and their support means the world to me, love you all.

 

In the words of Rocky Balbour…..

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”
― Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa

Big love

Reece

P.S  My blog will be updated with my future progress along my journey with cancer.  

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